Sam Bloom, Tween Librarian, Downtown Main Library

On Monday, January 27, children’s and young adult literature lovers tuned in to the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards in Philadelphia, for the announcements of the Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King (CSK), Printz, and other awards.

But in the months and weeks leading up to the announcements, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamiton County librarians held their own Mock Award events, discussing the relative merits of books in a style meant to emulate the real committees’ deliberations. For the 2019 publishing year, our Library offered four Mock Awards: Caldecott, CSK, Newbery, and Printz. In 2020, we were excited to add a Mock Stonewall Book Award to the mix.

In a Mock Award discussion, the point is not to predict the books that are going to win said award; rather, participants can hone their critical thinking skills around books and hear opinions and viewpoints that they might not otherwise. This helps us as librarians in several ways: we get new books to recommend to young people; we fine-tune our critical eye to help us handpick the very best books to use in programs and displays; and it often pushes us to read outside our respective comfort zones. (And let’s be honest, it’s just really fun to get together with friends and talk about good books!)

“Mock Printz is stressful but honestly a blast,” said Sarah Rust, Teen Librarian at the Mt. Healthy branch who is, along with Monfort Heights Teen Librarian Lauren Smallwood, a Mock Printz co-founder. “I don’t always get to spend as much time talking about books as people might think a librarian would, and [the Mock Printz] is a great way to introduce our staff and participants to writers and books that might not be as buzzed about.”

Voting totals from the Mock Newbery. Photo credit: Sam Bloom. 

The newest of our Mock Award events, our second annual Mock CSK took place on December 4. A group of around 25 librarians and local educators chose New Kid (Jerry Craft) as the Author Award Winner. We selected The Bell Rang (James E. Ransome) and Genesis Begins Again (Alicia D. Williams) as our Author Honors.

For the Illustrator Award, we chose The Undefeated (Kadir Nelson) as our winner; The Bell Rang, Going Down Home with Daddy (Daniel Minter); and What Is Given from the Heart (April Harrison) were our Illustrator Honors. Finally, we selected When Aidan Became a Brother (Kaylani Juanita) as our John Steptoe/New Talent Illustrator Award.

For year four of our Mock Printz on January 14, around 40 librarians and local editors chose Shout (Laurie Halse Anderson) as the winner. Brave Face (Shaun David Hutchinson), Lovely War (Julie Berry), and Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All (Laura Ruby) were the Mock Printz Honors.

We held our Mock Newbery and Caldecott on the same day, January 16. In the morning, we focused on the Mock Newbery (our ninth such event). Our winner was Other Words for Home (Jasmine Warga). (By the way, Warga is from Cincinnati and a large chunk of the book takes place in Clifton! You can read our interview with her on the blog here.) Our Honor books were The Lost Girl (Anne Ursu), New Kid (Jerry Craft), and We’re Not From Here (Geoff Rodkey).

Mock Printz selection (Not pictured: Thirteen Doors, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby) photo credit: Renee Roberson Tecco. 

That afternoon, we turned our attention to the Mock Caldecott. The winner of our seventh Mock Caldecott was You Are Home (Evan Turk); the Honor books were Fry Bread (Juana Martinez-Neal), My Papi Has a Motorcycle (Zeke Peña), and The Undefeated (Kwame Alexander).

As much fun as the Mock Awards are, there’s still nothing like the real thing. With that in mind, here’s a shout out to the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County staff members who served on some of the real award committees this year: Renee Roberson Tecco (Youth Services), a member of the Asian/Pacific American Library Associations’s Young Adult Literature Award selection committee; Dawn McMillan (Oakley), chair of the Margaret Edwards Award selection committee; and Alia Jones (Youth Services), a member of the Caldecott Award Selection Committee.

Our Mock Award teams have already started reading 2020 titles in readiness for next year’s events. As Lauren Smallwood said, “The Mock Printz is like a book club I prepare for all year.” Thanks to everyone who takes part in these (now five) year-long book clubs!

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